AUGUST 28, 1917
On 28 August 1917 Archbishop Edward Patrick Roche, the Catholic bishop of St. John’s wrote Prime Minister Edward Morris of Newfoundland with some concerns that he had concerning the “denominational division of the civil service” in the country.
Archbishop Roche noted in his letter that he was not happy with the decision reached by Government with respect to the appointment of an Inspector General of Police. It appears that a Catholic had held the position (John J. Sullivan) but it had been decided to give the position to a Protestant. (Charles H. Hutchings). The Archbishop wrote “I cannot but regard it as the passing out of Catholic hands an important position in point of honour, influence, and emolument.”
Church officials from all denominations staunchly defended positions in the Newfoundland civil service for their flock. They were following an entrenched principle of “denominational representation in government and the civil service” established as early as 1865. Also known as the principle of “denominational compromise” it was generally accepted that positions in the public service, from the Supreme Court bench to ferry men should be allocated in such a way that each denomination received a proportionate share of both jobs and the salary budget.
The principle essentially meant that all patronage and government jobs should be distributed upon a perfectly fair denominational basis with the amount of patronage given to each denomination representing their share of the population. Essentially 1/3 of the jobs went to The Roman Catholics, 1/3 to the Anglicans and 1/3 to the Methodists.
SCRUTINIZING THE CIVIL LISTS
The leaders of all of the churches each year scrutinized what were referred to as the “civil lists” to insure that their denominations were well represented. These “civil lists” identified officials in all departments of government giving the salary and religious denomination of each.
The analysis of the” civil lists” by church leaders was quite detailed. In his letter of 28 August, Archbishop Roche also observed “The salary of the superintendent of the Hospital (Protestant) is more than the Superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum (Catholic); the salary of the Inspector General (Protestant) is more than the Superintendent of the Penitentiary (Catholic).
The principle of “denominational compromise” was well entrenched until 1934 when it came under review by the Commission of Government (1934-1949) they dropped old political and religious criteria in the hiring and promotion of civil servants making merit the sole basis for promotion. (It is interesting to note that when the commission of government was established in 1934, the positions for the three Newfoundlanders were allocated on a denominational basis: Alderdice (Anglican), Howley (RC) and Puddester (UC).
Recommended Archival Collection: At the Provincial Archives Division at The Rooms see GN 2.41 This series consists of the names, occupations, dates of appointments, terms of office and religious denominations of civil servants of St. John’s and Newfoundland.